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European Tour and Tata Communications announce tech incubator finalists

The European Tour has announced the three finalists for a technology incubator project designed to identify ideas that can increase engagement in golf.

The European Tour Innovation Hub competition is being run in unison with the tour’s Official Global Connectivity supplier Tata Communications, which is using the activation to promote its cloud and data centre services.

The two parties launched the innovation contest in late September, challenging technology start-ups to develop concepts that could enhance the European Tour’s broadcast and production, help it to interact with audiences in new ways, or create new commercial opportunities or efficiencies.

“The fundamental thing that we want to do is help improve engagement, help improve monetisation of the sport, help get talent from outside to come in,” said Mehul Kapadia, global chief marketing officer for Tata Communications. “For us, it is about how all the technologies that Tata Communications deploys as digital infrastructure can get leveraged more.”

The three shortlisted finalists include: Canadian firm Sparx Technology, a fan engagement and wagering application which has already worked with NBC Sports to provide a Predict-the-Game telecast of a National Basketball Association match; US augmented reality firm Eyecandylab, which overlays live video streams with interactive statistics and 3D visualisations; and German firm Alugha which translates and subtitles content into multiple languages.

The finalists will now be invited to attend a workshop in London next February to develop their ideas with coaching from venture capital firms, the European Tour and Tata Communications.

Following the workshop, the companies will be expected to deliver a Dragon’s Den-style pitch to a panel of judges including the European Tour’s chief technology officer, Michael Cole, chief content officer Rufus Hack, Mehul Kapadia, global chief marketing officer for Tata Communications and Tri Pham, the company’s chief strategy officer. The panel also includes Oliver Wilson, winner of the 2014 Alfred Dunhill Links Championship and a Ryder Cup player.

The winning entry will be offered the chance to develop the idea with the European Tour before it is subjected to a proof-of-concept test at a leading European Tour event during the 2020 season.

As the European Tour’s Global Connectivity Supplier, Tata Communications provides smart infrastructure and networking services at its tournaments at a discounted rate. SportBusiness understands the brand has decided to forgo more prominent branding on European Tour assets in favour of the Innovation Hub activation for its side of the value-in-kind deal.

The European Tour is keen to position itself as platform for showcasing technology, announcing that ‘innovation’ was one of its three guiding principles in a recent rebrand.

Chief technology officer Michael Cole said the tour was increasingly looking to technology to address some of its most intractable problems, including pace of play, the consistency of the tournament experience for fans and the organisation of food and beverage concessions.

“We’re not entering into this program with equity investment in mind,” he said. “We’re entering into this program to look at real-time, real-life solutions to challenges that we have at the European Tour.”

The shortlisting of wagering application Sparx Technology is particularly interesting in the context of the European Tour’s recent data partnership with IMG Arena. The agency is developing a sophisticated data capture system for the tour with the aim of creating more in-play betting markets around its content.